Social Culture at Vandy

<p>Can anyone comment on the prevalence of "mean girl" culture at Vandy? My D loved what she saw during a visit, but that was just an overnight. She knows a couple of guys who are attending who like the school, but warned her about this, particularly in the Greek environment.</p>

<p>I'm pretty sure there's a "mean girl" culture at every school... college girls will be college girls.</p>

<p>Half of the women at Vanderbilt pledge, not all are offered any spots in sororities even though the girls give up part of winter break to rush freshman year. That is a high participation number at any college, especially in the top tier colleges...for women. Even with the shift in demographics, this percentage has held steady. </p>

<p>One of our sons went Greek at Duke, the other is independent at Vanderbilt. I think it is a mistake to fret over this question till you are offered admission and have to weigh the financial hard numbers and the intangibles of your top choices. We spent an entire day in a hotel room in Nashville while our son struggled over competing offers in April between two colleges that had little in common in their selling points. In my view, this sort of "choice" is a huge privilege because Vanderbilt is a wonderful wonderful institution in a very good city, and no college really delivers the same culture as the next college. If Vanderbilt is offered to your daughter, she will have time to consider more fully on Accepted Student Days, and if she is admitted to Vanderbilt it goes without saying that she will also have other good offers. I don't believe that anyone should mark colleges off their list over aversion to Greek life. Although our Vandy son is averse, we prefer to look at how he has learned to cope with dissonance and to find his own peer group and outlets sans Greek life. I think Greek life for independents is similar to life in a work place. You will be conducting business with people with vastly different ideas on how to spend a weekend or how to vote etc. Initially our son was happier with attending colleges that were Greek free and more liberal. But now he views Vanderbilt as a more reality based laboratory for life ahead of him. Vandy's student body is also split politically pretty much down the middle which is atypical of a top tier university. Again, this is dissonant but leads to classroom debate and social debates that are more reflective of the divisions in the nation. My Vandy son is friends with many very worthy girls who are leaders and self directed...there is no shortage of bright girls at Vanderbilt although their outlooks are quite varied. best of luck</p>

<p>Thanks so much. My D visited as athlete recruit. She absolutely loved THAT culture -- welcoming, team-oriented young women-- and thus Vandy is her No. 1 choice. So she is being recruited, but I want to be sure she gets the full, realistic picture of Vandy as a whole. Who knows what the future brings -- you may get injured, you may decide you can't handle the pressure of competing and studying, so you darn well better love where you are for reasons other than the athletic environment.
I appreciate your observations about the bigger picture.</p>

<p>Our Vandy son would have been more among his tribe in a couple of the fantastic northern liberal arts colleges that admitted him, and sometimes this makes me a little sad--he won merit money to Vanderbilt so in the recession his choices became between two merit offers. However, we think he needed to be more in the mainstream of America at Vanderbilt where he has had to learn to team with people who are not at all where he is coming from socially. One of the things we have been surprised by is the high level of support he has received from faculty members. Vandy is a large complex college but it does have some aspects of an intimate liberal arts school which won't disappoint you. He also has never had anything but excellent professors and in many cases he has had small classes. These things are golden, especially when you also get a nationally ranked college with a nationally diverse student body. I do think the freshman journey for girls can be a little tougher re sororities or no sororities because it can seem to dominate their social worlds. But sorority life can also offer support and structure in a campus of 6000 if you don't fret over perceived ranks and you are strong enough to blow off and to ignore a lot of the anxiety on display during freshman rush. I am no fan of Greek life personally but I have to concede that my Duke Greek grad received tremendous support from his frat emotionally and also academically, and this sense of belonging and friendship has continued post graduation and even factored into his first job. Since our Greek averse son chose Vanderbilt, he dived into his activities and immediately began doing productive things outside of class, made friends in circles that are not Greek but are tied into other things at Vandy. We advised him to be very open hearted toward his Greek classmates and he has several friends in sororities and frats. Vandy has a very active Alternative Spring Break for instance that a lot of students opt to do and they are all mixed Greek and non Greek teams. Everything at Vandy is done by students of both persuasions. This is also true at schools like UVA so who wants to eliminate UVA from the picture out of concern for "mean girls"...even though we know a lovely local girl who got zero offers for a sorority there even though she rushed. Anyway, just my musings. You may be surprised like we were at Duke and you might discover that a sorority is a strong foundation for your daughter. If not, mastering rowing your own canoe at Vanderbilt socially with the half of the school that is independent has its rewards. Good luck with your sought after senior! :)</p>

<p>Thanks! I have a S in third year at UMiami, and going Greek made ALL the difference in keeping him happy there, to be honest. So I am open to it conceptually. But it is not my girl's style, or so we think. Open minds!</p>

<p>Faline2, thanks for your very thoughful and interesting posts. We are struggling with many of the "greek life" issues being discussed here. My D has apps into Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, and other less Greek oriented schools like Richmond and W&M. We are from the Midwest, so the combination of the Greek system and southern culture can be a little intimidating. However, I also agree that the structure can be very supportive. We know a girl from our town who didn't seem the "sorority-type" and yet she really thrived at WF in the greek system. I do like the Spring rush scenario at V much better than a fall rush (in places like WF). That seems to give the student at least a little time to gather their bearings before rush. </p>

<p>Changing the subject completely, you mentioned merit award offers for your son. I am having trouble de-coding merit options for our D. She has strong scores (1430 SAT and a high GPA). Certain schools like Richmond talk about specific merit programs that are offered. However, in talking to other parents, it seems that certain schools make admissions offers with merit awards. Can you give me any insight into how this actually works?</p>

<p>Hi Boatlift, glad my personal vignettes/outlooks had some value to you. Your question about merit money wasn't clear to me. Feel free to PM if you like. Most of the colleges named have very specific applications and extra essays and references required for their signature merit programs with deadlines that vary from institution to institution. Colleges with more money are known to offer some merit dollars that are surprises along with admission --dollars that were not specifically applied for..Vanderbilt used to have pages of specifically named merit scholarships to distribute but they consolidated most of them into their signature merit programs with some exceptions a few years ago. William and Mary as a public institution does not give merit awards except for the Murrays..which go to a handful of students per class. Semifinalist and Finalist selections often come in early to mid March for some of the options at each college that include further interviews and essays. It is difficult to predict any of these outcomes because the applicant pool in many ways is a pool of equals in statistical scores..and the intangibles are factors in the end. Good luck to your daughter and to you...best wishes.</p>

<p>To confirm Greenmum's perspectives, my son, now a sophomore at Vandy, is also an independent, deciding that he preferred to do things with small groups and independently. He is very happy at Vandy, participates in an engineering organization and works out with a mixed group of Greek and non-Greek students, and does research with another mixed bag of students. That said, one of his good girl friends that he graduated with who also attends Vandy, did go Greek and loves it too. I truly believe that although it is a smaller school, there is something for everyone, and it just takes time to experience the campus, classes and sample some activities to figure out where you want to go personally. One benefit of the way Vandy works their Greek system is spring rush, as Boatlift mentioned. This definitely gives the students time to settle in and get a feel for everything before having to worry about Rush. My son's friend has not experienced any "mean girl" syndrome that I know of (I talk with her quite a bit, as well as her mother) and by that time, really did have a feel enough to make her decision and feel comfortable about it. Also, as to scholarships, in particular to Vandy, the deadline for their main merit scholarship programs has passed, but if your daughter is a National Merit Finalist and names Vandy as a first choice, she can potentially receive $2k - $5k in addition to financial aid or other scholarships. I think mainly the public schools tend to award merit scholarships in conjunction with admissions, and as Faline2 mentioned, most private schools have separate apps, deadlines and notifications; we have experienced this with my son currently at Vandy, and also with our senior who is currently applying to both types of schools.</p>

<p>Greek definitely has a large presence on campus. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it. I didn't go greek because it is a big time commitment and just wasnt for me. At times I do feel a little left out when some of my friends are pledging, but overall I'm happy I didn't go greek. It feels like a lot of people are in a frat, but if you step back you realize it is really on 30%. That 30% just tends to be active on campus, which is a great thing. Half of girls are in sororities, which is a large amount, but there is definitely a sorority for every girl if they want to be involved. The great thing about Vandy is that greek life is not exclusive, meaning you don't just hang out with people in your frat or sorority. Not going greek is not the end of the world. There are plenty of other things to get involved with. As for the "mean girl" stigma, yeah there are girls here who think highly of themselves, but you get that at every school. Most girls are extremely friendly, smart, and are very involved.</p>

<p>It's much more than 30% for girls.. from my understanding about 60% of women on Vanderbilt's campus are greek. Overall it's about 40% - there are very few guys in each pledge class as opposed to 40-50 women for sororities.
The mean girl culture definitely exists, but it does at every school. You just don't associate with it. You'll see girls carrying Marc Jacob backpacks, burberry rain boots, and wearing every high end designer imaginable as a part of an 'everyday' outfit. But just because they're wearing that, doesn't mean they're all part of that culture. Lots of kids at Vandy are privileged - wearing expensive clothes and owning expensive things doesn't make you a mean girl. Like I said there are definitely some, but more aren't than are and the few that are can be easily ignored/avoided. You'll figure out easily which sororities and friend groups you want to be a part of and which you don't.
For the most part, Vanderbilt's social culture is incredible. There's really no other top 20 school with a social scene comparable to Vandy's. Greek is dominating, but open to all students, even non-greeks. It's a little harder for independent guys to get into parties - any girls are welcome anytime though.
The students here are different enough that you'll most definitely find people who you absolutely love, but of course with that, there will be a few you don't like so much.</p>